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Medieval Abstraction

International collaborative project

The concept of abstraction has always been considered the domain of modern art. Abstraction, the master narrative goes, was forged and developed in the twentieth century in response to the cataclysmic events of the 1900s and as a revolt against the figurative tradition of the past. Our project intends to challenge this narrative and release the notion of abstraction from its modern and contemporary confines. Focusing on the long and rich tradition of nonfigurative art, which remains virtually unacknowledged by our field, we aim to identify and explore the concept of abstraction as it develops and transforms throughout the Middle Ages and beyond.  Predicated on the pre-modern theological articulation between truth, facts, and language, abstraction emerged as the primary vehicle for materializing the unspeakable, the unrepresentable, and the ineffable. Interdisciplinary in nature, our project aims to reformulate the very way that we approach the history of representation.